WHO warns of protective gear shortage amid COVID-19 fears

Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that there is a severe shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE) and called on manufacturers to urgently increase production to meet the demand as the novel coronavirus rapidly spreads across the globe.

It is estimated that PPE supplies need to be increased by 40 percent globally, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a daily briefing, noting that shortages of PPE such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, and face shields are leaving frontline healthcare workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients.

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” he said.

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Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others.

However, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a sixfold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled.

The global health watchdog said that an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.

Recent WHO guidance calls for the rational and appropriate use of PPE in healthcare settings, and the effective management of supply chains.

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The WHO is working with governments and industries to boost production and secure allocations for critically affected and at-risk countries.

The death toll due to the virus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has escalated to more than 3000, while around 80,000 people remain affected.

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